U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Major DWI Case

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to take on and decide a DWI case that could have major repercussions to DWI law across the country. The High Court will rule whether Minnesota’s implied-consent law violates the U.S. Constitution.

In most states, if the police suspect or arrest a person on suspicion of DWI, there will be some sort of implied-consent law which requires drivers to submit to an alcohol level test or suffer some sort of penalty. In Texas, for example, the law imposes every driver’s consent to submit to a breathalyzer test or face losing a driver’s license. But Minnesota’s law imposes different penalties.

Minnesota Implied-Consent Law

In contrast to Texas and most other states’ implied-consent laws which imposes a civil penalty for not taking an alcohol level test, Minnesota law makes it a crime to not consent to a test. This particular case arose from a 2012 interaction with the police by a man trying to get his boat off of a boat ramp. Apparently, the police received reports that he and his companions were intoxicated.

The police approached the man and his friends and asked him to submit to a field sobriety test. He refused and was arrested on suspicion of DWI. After being arrested he refused to submit to a breath or blood test, and in addition to DWI charges was charged with a felony charge of refusing to submit to a test. Now he gets a chance to present his case to the Supreme Court.

Potential Impact of Ruling

The law’s detractors argue that making it a crime to refuse to a blood or breath test effectively takes away several of a defendant’s rights. For example, a defendant in any criminal case has the right to be secure in his or her person against unreasonable searches and seizures. It is a cornerstone of our criminal law that any search or seizure without a warrant is unreasonable. It would follow, then, that forcing someone to submit to a search of their blood or breath without a warrant or face prison is de facto unconstitutional.

The Minnesota Supreme Court took the view that their criminal penalty for refusing a warrantless search was constitutional. According to that court, the search is legal because it is incident to a valid arrest and that is one exception to the warrant requirement. If the Supreme Court agrees with this position, look to other states taking this approach and passing laws that make it a crime to refuse a breath or blood test. If the court declares the law unconstitutional, then look to defendants across the country challenging their states’ laws based on the court’s ruling.

Texas Implied-Consent Law and Defending Your Rights

For now in Texas drivers do implicitly consent to taking a breath or blood test once arrested for DWI, but if they refuse there is a way to fight a license suspension. You can appeal any license suspension at a hearing where you should be represented by competent, talented DWI defense counsel like the Wilder DWI Defense Firm. There, your attorney will be able to challenge the police’s evidence and build a record that you can ultimately use at trial. If you are charged with DWI and are facing a license suspension, contact us. We will provide the experience and counsel that your case deserves.